Physicians are in short supply in Puerto Rico.
From 2006 to 2016, the number of doctors on the island declined from 14,000 to 9,000, according the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Puerto Rico. And Hurricane Maria has helped fuel the exodus.
Dr. José Cruz, a pediatrician with a practice in Ponce, said the island’s ongoing financial crisis and low payments from health insurers drove many physicians to seek work in the States.
Physicians say running a medical practice is a losing business in Puerto Rico. At San Jorge Children’s Hospital in San Juan, a pediatrician earning about $89,000 a year can double his salary just by moving to the States.
The low salaries reflect the island’s widespread poverty. Nearly 2 in 3 children — and half of all Puerto Ricans — rely on Medicaid, and the territory receives far less money from Congress to pay doctors than do low-income states.
KHN senior correspondent Sarah Varney reports in collaboration with “PBS NewsHour” on how Puerto Rico’s exodus of doctors is adding a new level of complication to delivering care.